Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford: latest commentary

Archbishop Cranmer published an article yesterday written by Martin Sewell: Institutional bullying in the Church of England: it’s time to face the liturgical music.

There are some related items in the Questions asked at the General Synod session that starts tomorrow. See below the fold for details.

Surviving Church has published The Christ Church Percy Affair. Is it possible to be neutral?

(more…)

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British Methodists approve same-sex marriage in church

Here is the official Methodist press release: Conference confirms resolutions on marriage and relationships

Following prayerful consideration by the whole Church, the Methodist Conference has voted to confirm provisional resolutions on the principles or qualities of good relating, understanding of cohabitation and same sex marriages conducted on Methodist premises or by Methodist office-holders.

A report on marriage and relationships, ‘God in Love Unites Us’, was received by the Conference in 2019 and the local District Synods were asked to consider the provisional resolutions and report back to this year’s Conference which is being held this week in Birmingham.  The Conference received a report on the results of the local conferring which showed that 29 out of the 30 Synods confirmed support for the provisional resolutions.

The Revd Sonia Hicks, President of the Conference, prayed ahead of the main debate on Wednesday morning in Birmingham, asking that the Conference’s “words may be imbibed with your grace, with tenderness from on high.”

A range of views were expressed on the resolutions, in particular on cohabitation and same sex marriages. The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, spoke to the Conference acknowledging the “depth of feeling, pain and anxiety that there is” with a commitment to work across the Connexion with District Chairs to heal divisions.

Speakers called for unity going ahead irrespective of the decision. Other speakers spoke of the acceptance of diversity that younger Church members have for each other with younger speakers relating their own lived experience as Christians from the LGBTQI+ community. Another representative asked that the Church does not ostracise those who oppose the introduction of same-sex marriages in the Church, saying the great majority of these people are trying to be faithful to Scripture as they see it.

The Methodist Church included other denominations and Methodist Churches across the world in the process of listening and consultation, with written submissions from ecumenical partners to the ‘God In Love Unites Us‘ report and workshops with global Methodist partners.

Following the vote on the provisional resolutions the Revd Sonia Hicks said: “The debate today and our wider conversation has been conducted with grace and mutual respect. As we move forward together after this historic day for our Church, we must remember to continue to hold each other in prayer, and to support each other respecting our differences.”

Church Times news report: Methodists agree to same-sex weddings in church

…The Conference, meeting both online and in-person at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham this week, voted 254 to 46 in favour of a resolution by which “the Conference consents in principle to the marriage of same-sex couples on Methodist premises throughout the Connexion and by Methodist ministers, probationers or members in so far as the law of the relevant jurisdiction permits or requires and subject to compliance with such further requirements, if any, as that law imposes.”

This involved redrafting the Methodist marriage canon to replace the premise that marriage is between one man and one woman. The relevant standing order now states: “The Methodist Church believes that marriage is given by God to be a particular channel of God’s grace, and that it is in accord with God’s purposes when a marriage is a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of two people who freely enter it.

“Within the Methodist Church this is understood in two ways: that marriage can only be between a man and a woman; that marriage can be between any two people. The Methodist Church affirms both understandings and makes provision in its Standing Orders for them.”

BBC Methodist Church allows same-sex marriage in ‘momentous’ vote

Guardian Methodist church to allow same-sex marriage after ‘historic’ vote

Daily Mail Methodist Church becomes biggest religious group in Britain to say yes to same-sex marriages

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has issued this Statement on the Methodist Conference Vote on Marriage Equality 30 June 2021

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England rejoices in and welcomes the news that the Methodist Conference has consented in principle to the marriage of same-sex couples on Methodist premises and by Methodist ministers. The resolution was passed by a very large majority (254 to 46) after a long and impressive debate marked by a generous and kind spirit from both those in favour and those opposing the motion.

This means that the Methodist Church of Great Britain, which covers all of Scotland, Wales and England, will become the largest UK denomination that fully accepts marriage equality and will welcome LGBTQIA+ couples to marry in their churches.

The decision was taken, after many years of discussion and debate, on the basis of the Report of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group 2019, God in Love Unites Us, which was discussed extensively at the 2019 Methodist Conference and commended for study and prayerful discussion throughout the Church through 2020.

The Campaign congratulates Dignity and Worth – our sister organisation in the Methodist Church – for their tireless work for this outcome.

We call upon the bishops of the Next Steps Group to ensure that proposals for marriage equality in the Church of England form part of their report in due course.

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What next in the Diocese of Winchester?

Updated Sunday and again Tuesday and Wednesday (scroll down)

Our previous report dated 20 May, was headlined: Winchester rebels against its diocesan bishop.

As the six week period of “stepping back” draws to a close, these items have appeared:

Much more detail on the bishop’s earlier career is to be found in this:

Update Sunday

Update Tuesday 

Letter from Bishop Debbie Sellin. Do read the whole letter, but the critical portion is this…

It goes without saying that this remains a hugely challenging period for us as a diocese. I realise many of you feel you have not heard enough since I wrote to you almost six weeks ago, to inform you that Bishop Tim would be stepping back. Again, I am conscious that many questions remain unanswered, but I can confirm that the process to consider matters raised concerning leadership and governance is progressing.

Facilitated conversations are continuing and, in order for them to be given the time and space they need, Bishop Tim has agreed these will be his sole focus until the end of August. I recognise many will want to know more and have questions but we do need to ensure the process is held as confidential at this stage and I would urge all to keep those concerned in our prayers.  Once we can say more then of course we will. The Bishop of London and the Bishop at Lambeth are being kept fully aware of the ongoing process and are providing welcome support, although they are not part of the conversations.

Bishop David has agreed to continue standing back from ministry in Winchester Diocese to enable the conversations to run their course…

This letter has now (Wednesday) been posted to the diocesan website.

Church Times: Talks about Dakin’s future to continue

…The facilitated conversations mentioned by Bishop Sellin involved Dr Dakin, the chairs of the houses of clergy and laity in Winchester, and the chair of the finance committee — Dr Dakin is chair of the diocesan board of finance, an arrangement regarded as highly unusual — together with a facilitator suggested by Bishop Thornton. There have been two such meetings and another is expected shortly. They are understood to have been positive, though the issues being dealt with are difficult.

Commentators — of which there are many — have expressed doubt that Dr Dakin can have any confidence of returning to the diocese, given the nature of some of the stories that have emerged. One solution might be that he takes early retirement — he is 63; but he would not be immune to action under the Clergy Discipline Measure if those who are alleging mistreatment decide to complain formally.

There has also been discussion about the culture of the diocese, with the suggestion that wider repairs are needed than merely replacing the diocesan bishop. In the mean time, Bishop Sellin remains acting diocesan bishop.

Hampshire Chronicle: Delays over decision over future of Bishop of Winchester, Rt Rev Tim Dakin

Update Wednesday

Surviving Church: Finding Solutions for the Winchester Crisis

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Oxford diocese reports the CDM decision on the Dean

Updated Saturday

We reported on 1 June that the CDM complaint against the Dean of Christ Church had been dismissed. Today, the Diocese of Oxford has reported as follows.

Decision by the President of Tribunals

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy

A decision has been made regarding the complaint against the Very Reverend Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. The President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin DBE, has decided that it would not be proportionate to refer the matter to a CDM tribunal, noting that there is another means of redress that is a more proportionate means of addressing the allegation.

The role of the President of Tribunals is to determine whether there is a case to answer on which a disciplinary tribunal should adjudicate. She writes: “When arriving at this conclusion, I also take into account that Christ Church itself has instigated its own inquiry into the incident. It seems to me therefore that there is another means of redress which is a more proportionate means of addressing alleged incidents.”

Dame Sarah’s decision concludes this Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) process. The matter should be confidential between those involved in it. The Dean remains suspended by Christ Church, pending the outcome of the college’s separate and independently-chaired tribunal.

The Diocese of Oxford is fully committed to justice and fair process. We have offered significant support for those involved. This includes work to ensure proper procedures and offers of pastoral support and counselling for all parties. Where possible, Bishop Steven is also in regular personal contact with everyone involved.

Nevertheless, matters have been and remain extremely difficult and painful for all concerned. We are profoundly disappointed that these difficulties have been compounded by leaks, commentary and speculation by a small group of people online, apparently with little concern for the original complainant’s right to anonymity, or indeed a fair process for the Dean.

Breaches of confidentiality and regularly posting inaccurate information are to the detriment of everyone. The diocese has sought advice on these matters following the leak of Dame Sarah’s written decision. We draw to the attention of all the Clergy Discipline Commission guidance on Confidentiality and Privacy in Clergy Discipline Proceedings, dated February 2021, which is part of its Statutory Guidance:

  1. Allegations of misconduct under the CDM are private and confidential. This is to ensure that matters are dealt with fairly and that the process is not prejudiced. It extends to complainants, respondents and witnesses.
  2. Due to the nature of allegations, individuals concerned will have a reasonable expectation of privacy and confidence at common law. In addition, their personal data will be subject to data protection law. In certain cases, the provisions of section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) 1992 may also apply (anonymity of victims of certain offences).
  3. The default position is that all hearings will take place in private, unless one of the reasons provided for in rule 40 applies.
  4. Accordingly, all matters relating to an allegation should be kept strictly private and confidential. This includes written documents and material which, save for legal representatives, should not be shared with third parties.
  5. In particular, individuals (regardless of whether or not they are a party) should refrain from making statements, posts, comments or similar on social media, websites, print media or other public fora which in any way reference the details of the allegation, the individuals involved, or give an opinion as to the merits or otherwise of the proceedings.

Please join with us in praying for the complainant, for Martyn, for the cathedral chapter and congregation, and for the wider Christ Church community.

Notes

  • Christ Church is a complex institution and, uniquely in the Church of England, the Dean of the Cathedral is also Head of an Oxford College.
  • The terms of service of the Dean and the residentiary canons of the cathedral are set out in the Statutes of Christ Church. The post of Dean is indivisible; the different aspects of their duties cannot be separated.
  • The person who brought the complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) did so by virtue of their position at the cathedral and only following consultation and agreement with members of chapter.
  • The internal Christ Church process currently underway is separate and independent of the Church. The decision of the governing body to move to tribunal, and the subsequent process, takes place under the statutes of Christ Church, not under Church legislation. The Bishop of Oxford is advised, but not consulted.
  • Meanwhile, the cathedral’s core work of prayer and the worship of God continues.

Update

Archbishop Cranmer has this morning published Diocese of Oxford misrepresents the President of Tribunals, leaving Martyn Percy ‘under a cloud’.

This guest post by Martin Sewell and David Lamming is long and detailed. Reading it in full is strongly recommended.

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Safeguarding process finally concluded for Lincoln Canon

Updated Friday

789 days after he was first asked to “step aside” from his role as Canon Chancellor, Church of England processes have cleared him completely. He had been acquitted of any criminal charge by a Cardiff jury in December 2020.

The Church Times reports Safeguarding process drove us close to suicide, says Lincoln canon

THE Canon Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, the Revd Dr Paul Overend, and his wife, Sue, contemplated suicide because of the safeguarding investigation that he faced, he said on Sunday.

On Saturday, it was announced that a church investigation had concluded that there was “no case to answer” after a protracted investigation by the police and the church authorities.

In a personal statement that was read out on Sunday, Canon Overend writes: “The diocese and the Church of England will now need to take stock of their safeguarding and CDM processes, which have harmed a great number of people and brought my wife and me close to suicide.”

He said on Monday that, at one point, his wife had been admitted to the Maytree Respite Centre in London for residential suicide-prevention care…

Statement from the Diocese of Lincoln

Statement from Lincoln Cathedral

Update

The Church Times carries a further detailed news report, Five-minute meeting that led to a traumatic two-year ordeal and there is a reference to this matter in Leader comment: Is this institutional corruption?

The cover picture on this issue of the Church Times is a painting created by Sue Overend, more details here (scroll down).

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CDM complaint against Dean of Christ Church dismissed

Updated yet again Saturday (scroll down)

The President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin has issued her decision, dated 28 May, concerning the CDM complaint made last November by Graham Ward in respect of the alleged conduct of Martyn Percy on 4 October. This follows an investigation by the Designated Officer, whose report she received on 25 May.

We first reported on this matter on 19 November, and then again on 9 January, 8 February, 19 February, 11 March, 17 March. This decision reported today relates only to the CDM action, not to the other complaints made elsewhere.

A redacted version of her decision (3 pages) can be found here. I recommend reading it in full. It concludes thus:

9. When determining whether there is a case to answer upon which a disciplinary tribunal should adjudicate, I must also bear in mind that the CDM is designed to deal with serious misconduct and that section 8(1)(d) of the CDM should be read in that light. Proportionality must also be borne in mind. Would it be proportionate to refer this matter to a tribunal for adjudication?

10. In my judgment, having considered all the evidence including the interviews conducted by the Designated Officer, the answer is “no”. Although I do not intend to trivialise Ms X’s allegations in any way, it seems to me that it would not be proportionate to refer this matter to a tribunal. The incident itself was extremely short, the alleged hair stroking was even shorter and the language and the conduct as a whole was not overtly sexual. If this is put together with: the fact that Ms X accepts that she was not upset in any way; stated originally that she was not perturbed (albeit she told the police that she was concerned what would happen next); the incident took place in a room which was or could be accessed by others; and Miss X stated that she would have accepted an apology if the Dean had admitted what she says took place, it seems to me that it is entirely disproportionate that this matter should be referred to a tribunal. When arriving at this conclusion I also take into account that Christ Church itself has instigated its own inquiry into the incident. It seems to me therefore, that there is another means of redress which is a more proportionate means of addressing alleged incidents. Accordingly, whilst in no way condoning the alleged behaviour, if it is proved to have taken place, I consider that this matter is not suitable to be referred to a tribunal.

The Church Times reports, with some additional detail: Dean Percy allegation does not warrant a CDM tribunal, judge rules.

Among the extra information, the appointment of Rachel Crasnow QC as chair of the new tribunal convened by Christ Church, is reported.

The reference in the decision to a letter from WSLaw is amplified:

Dame Sarah says in her Decision that she has “taken no account” of an email by Alison Talbot of Winckworth Sherwood, the law firm that has been representing Christ Church in its actions against Dean Percy. In the email, Ms Talbot is concerned that the CDM process might give weight to a legal opinion commissioned by friends of the Dean from the human-rights barristers Edward Fitzgerald QC and Paul Harris in March, that the alleged incident “even if true, could not justify the decision to appoint the second tribunal” at Christ Church.

Ms Talbot writes: “In case any weight is being placed on that opinion by either the NST or those conducting the CDM process we would like to make it clear that we consider that opinion to have been based on only part of the facts and ChCh has had several opinions from highly qualified legal experts expressing the contrary view.”

Updates

Christ Church has issued the following statement today:

Christ Church statement in response to media interest

1 June 2021

When a current member of Christ Church staff made an allegation of sexual harassment against a senior member in October 2020, we followed our formal internal processes. It is important that every member of our community has the right to come forward and make such a complaint, and Christ Church unequivocally condemns sexual harassment in any form.

Christ Church, as an employer, a charity, and an educational and religious institution, will always treat such an allegation with the utmost seriousness. In March 2021, Christ Church published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, to provide external, transparent scrutiny of the disciplinary processes it is following, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes. In his report, Sir Wyn Williams concluded, “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.” The tribunal process is continuing and there will be no further updates at this time, nor will Christ Church comment on any separate, external processes.

Each of these blog articles contains a detailed analysis of how this CDM decision may affect the other, parallel, pending investigations. And there are now also two mainstream media reports:

Two more articles:

Another announcement from Christ Church: Christ Church confirms internal disciplinary tribunal

4 June 2021

Christ Church has confirmed that a disciplinary tribunal is proceeding, in order to consider an allegation of sexual harassment made by a junior member of staff against a senior member in October 2020. In March 2021, Christ Church published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, to provide external scrutiny of the actions it has taken, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes. In his report, Sir Wyn Williams concluded, “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.”

The same allegation of sexual harassment was considered by the Church of England under the Clergy Discipline Measure. The decision taken by Dame Sarah Asplin, President of Tribunals, was not to refer the case to a church tribunal in addition to Christ Church’s own inquiry. Dame Sarah stated, “When arriving at this conclusion I also take into account that Christ Church itself has instigated its own inquiry into the incident. It seems to me therefore, that there is another means of redress which is a more proportionate means of addressing alleged incidents.”

A spokesperson for Christ Church said:

“Christ Church unequivocally condemns sexual harassment in any form. It has been clearly stated by both Sir Wyn Williams and Dame Sarah Asplin that a Christ Church disciplinary tribunal is the right place for this allegation to be considered thoroughly. We continue to be appalled at attempts in the media and online to discredit the complainant, question her motives, and to prejudge the proper process. For the sake of all concerned, including the complainant, the respondent, and everyone within our community, the tribunal should now be allowed to take place and reach a conclusion without further external pressure.”

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Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM

Updated Wednesday 26 May

From the Sheldon Hub

News 25th May 2021:

Major research paper published
and Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM

‘I was handed over to the dogs’: lived experience, clerical trauma and the handling of complaints against clergy in the Church of England

A devastating systematic analysis of data from the Sheldon/Aston research survey. This paper explores the deeply troubling territory around the edges of the CDM. The painful testimonies are a hard read but these are voices that need your ears. Anyone in ministry can get caught up in this, often through no fault of their own.

We hope it will impassion you to become part of an unstoppable movement for constructive change.

That movement for change will no longer involve Sheldon’s leadership.
We are stepping back now. We have given it heart and soul for several years and much has been achieved. Now we are in danger of over-stretching ‘real world’ Sheldon. Sheldon has generously funded this project in direct cash (£35,000), but in many ways the time and emotional energy has been much more costly. We don’t put a monetary value on our time, but time spent on ProjectCDM is time not spent with people in need or on other necessary projects. We have attended many meetings, written papers, collaborated with researchers, contributed to consultations by others and built networks. There has probably been some vicarious trauma in the mix. Bringing to light such deep-rooted pain has generated significant additional correspondence and pastoral need from those directly harmed by the CDM.

The church can look away but can no longer say it didn’t know. A complaint against a caring professional in a public role should be treated as a pastoral emergency. Clergy urgently need a system for handling complaints and allegations of misconduct against them that is swift, proportionate, easy to understand, presumes innocence unless or until found guilty, and is applied without fear or favour. It needs to be rooted in gathering of robust factual evidence and prioritise restoring relationships wherever possible. The administration of the process must itself be properly accountable. Reputations of institutions matter, but those of individuals are far more vulnerable in this context. A year after the bishops agreed that CDM should be replaced we have no evidence that the NCIs have a handle on any of this. This press release was published on 17th May but we have no idea whether the proposals considered relate to the heavily criticised Lambeth proposals of December 2020 or have already pivoted towards the ELS model. The lack of transparency is itself deeply problematic.

Sheldon, along with CECA, is therefore now recommending that the ELS proposals are urgently taken forward into legislation.

Do read the whole text of the Sheldon announcement here.

Updates

The Church Times has two items:

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Winchester rebels against its diocesan bishop

Updated again 26 May and 28 May (scroll down for updates)

The Church Times reports: Bishop of Winchester steps back after diocesan rebellion.

THE Bishop of Winchester, Dr Tim Dakin, has “stepped back” from work for six weeks after he was threatened with a vote of no confidence at the next diocesan synod.

On Tuesday evening, the Suffragan Bishop of Southampton, in Winchester diocese, the Rt Revd Debbie Sellin, announced: “Bishop Tim has today informed me that he will be stepping back from his role as Bishop of Winchester for the next six weeks, so that he can focus on discussions about future leadership and governance reform in the diocese.”

The letter gives no further details, but it is understood that between 20 and 30 senior church members in the diocese, clergy and laity, threatened to pass a vote of no confidence in his leadership at the diocesan synod…

Read the full Church Times article for much more detail.

At the time of writing this, the diocesan website contains no reference to the matter.

The Hampshire Chronicle had a report this morning: Bishop of Winchester Rt Rev Tim Dakin to step down for six weeks.

Updates

The Times (£) has Bishop of Winchester, the Right Rev Tim Dakin, steps back after flock rebels

Surviving Church Bishop Dakin and Winchester. A Diocese in Crisis?

Gavin Ashenden Bishops who Bully – Reflections on a Safeguarding Scandal.

Church Times Leader comment: Winchester

Church Times Angela Tilby: Panic lies behind the Dakin crisis

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CofE Ethical Investment Advisory Group issues new guidance on Human Rights

Church of England press release

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group issues new guidance on Human Rights
17/05/2021

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has today published advice for the National Investing Bodies (NIBs) to ensure that international human rights norms are respected by the companies in which they invest. The National Investing Bodies have simultaneously published a new stand-alone Human Rights policy in line with this guidance.

The full report is available to read and download, here.

The EIAG provides timely, practical, and theologically grounded advice to the three NIBs to enable them to invest in a way that is distinctly Christian and Anglican. Its expert and independent membership includes leading Christian theologians, business-people, investors and other practitioners.

The NIBs’ policy was developed and agreed upon by all three National Investing Bodies. The NIBs have a long track record of engagement on human rights topics. Other policies have previously referenced Human Rights, but this new policy sets out a comprehensive and more detailed approach to stewardship on Human Rights.

Recent and ongoing engagement work carried out by the NIBs on this issue include:

  • Following the devastating disregard for indigenous community rights at Juukan Gorge in Australia, the Church of England Pensions Board, the Church Commissioners, and 62 other investors stepped up pressure, engaging and examining the approach taken by 50 mining companies, and reviewing how standards of best practice are applied and monitored across the sector.
  • The Church Commissioners and Church of England Pensions Board also jointly worked with the Swedish Council on Ethics on the publication of clear investor expectations on Human Rights and Big Tech companies. Key to the success of this intervention was recognising the integral part tech companies play in today’s society, especially considering the internet, social media and mobile phones are interwoven in the fabric of our daily lives. Engagement is ongoing.
  • CCLA, investment manager for the CBF Church of England Funds, launched the Find It, Fix It, Prevent It initiative which unites the investment sector with NGOs and academics to call on companies to proactively identify modern slavery in their supply chains, to take action to improve the lives of those affected, and work to prevent reoccurrence.

Anna McDonald, Secretary to the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said:

“This new guidance for the national investing bodies acknowledges that investors, like all business actors, have a responsibility to address the risks to people present in their investments and provides a reasoned and theological reflection detailing why a respect for international human rights norms is grounded in Christian tradition and teaching.

“Whilst the EIAG believes that a truly Christian conception of a just society needs more than a minimal legal framework established by rights, it believes that a minimum framework is helpful particularly with regard to the Church’s investments in businesses. The EIAG believes all human beings have an irremovable dignity as persons which must be respected and protected. It affirms the responsibility of all businesses to respect and protect this dignity and endorses the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as the authoritative global framework for helping businesses assess their impacts on human rights.

“The EIAG has been pleased to see the NIBs adopt a robust and updated human rights policy based on our guidance, and will look forward to their continued work protecting human rights through their investments. We expect the publication of these documents to strengthen their hand in engagement, public policy dialogue, and in calling for change.

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CofE National Register of Clergy

Church of England press release
National Register of Clergy launched
12/05/2021

The National Register of the Church’s clergy with a licence or Permission to Officiate (PTO) is now publicly available on the Church of England website.

The Register is an important development in strengthening safeguarding in the Church and was a recommendation in the 2017 Gibb Report which looked into the Church’s handling of allegations against the late Bishop Peter Ball.

Having a single, reliable, up to date register will enable clergy, churchwardens, and members of the public to check the bona fides of all clergy with licence or permission to officiate.

The National Register shows an individual’s title and name, how they are engaged with the Church of England (current post/licence) and the diocese, area or benefice to which they are licensed. The Register does not include contact, biographical or historical information.

At the time of launch, the National Register includes those who are ordained, expanding to include lay ministry in due course.

(more…)

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Next Steps for LLF faces challenges

Three items have appeared today which suggest the road ahead for LLF is not straightforward.

First, the Bishop of London has responded to the item in the Queen’s Speech about banning conversion therapy. Here’s the full press release which includes the following:

Following the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that the Government will ban conversion therapy, the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith Next Steps Group, said”The Church of England believes that all people are made in the image of God and must be cherished for who they are.

“The General Synod has voted overwhelmingly to reject coercive Conversion Therapies so we welcome the Government’s commitment to explore these matters further with a view to enshrining that position in law.

“We recognise the difficulties in defining Conversion Therapies and look forward to working closely with the Government to develop a viable definition and subsequent legislation.

“We want to prevent abuses of power, and ensure that issues of consent are made absolutely central to any future legislation.”

The motion agreed by General Synod in July 2017 was:
That this Synod: (a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence; and 3 (b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity; (c) and call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy.

Note that the word “coercive” does not appear in the motion passed by General Synod.

Second, the Next Steps Group has been explicitly criticised for its handling of a complaint relating to the inclusion of video featuring a particular person in LLF resource materials. This is explained carefully in an article on the Unadulterated Love site by Tina Beardsley titled LLF Next Steps Group refuses to act on trans people’s concerns. This article is not amenable to precis, and needs to be read in full to understand the complexities of the matter.

Third, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has  issued a press release, and written to the Bishop of London about the case involving The Rev’d Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead, and the person featured in Rachel’s Story – I Don’t Want to Be Part of An Institution that Allows Abuse to which we linked in an earlier TA article. The press release in full:

WHISTLEBLOWING PRIEST IN THE DIOCESE OF LONDON BEING FALSELY INVESTIGATED OVER TRUMPED UP ONLINE BULLYING CLAIMS

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has written to the Bishop of London condemning the Clergy Discipline Measure case brought against a whistleblowing priest.

The Campaign has learned that The Rev’d Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead, is currently being investigated by Church authorities for whistleblowing on the basis that he engaged in online bullying, harassment, intimidation and abuse of another cleric accused of traumatising a lesbian Christian.

In 2020, Fr. Robert was approached by a young woman who had been, in her words, ‘repeatedly traumatised’ by the actions of the vicar of a Holy Trinity Brompton plant in London because of her sexuality. You can read her story in her own words here. Fr Robert has been acting as her support, advocate and guide as she has sought for recognition of the harm done to her. In this process there has been an official investigation by the Diocese of London into the abuse of this young woman, which has made recommendations that have yet to be fully implemented by the parish concerned. 

Nigel Pietroni, Chairman, Campaign for Equal Marriage etc, said:

“We have reviewed Fr Robert’s online comments, tweets and retweets in relation to the case of this young woman and can find no evidence of bullying and intimidation, and in fact no reference to the other priest concerned at all.  

“Fr Robert’s focus has been on supporting the young woman in her struggle for redress and support, and the need for substantial changes in the approach by the Diocese of London, illustrated by the young woman’s experience, into safeguarding LGBTQIA+ people in its churches. The case demonstrates the deep harm that can be done by a lack of transparency and honesty about the position of LGBTQIA+ people in Church of England parishes. There are genuine questions raised by this case about spiritual abuse and the misuse of power.”

ENDS

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Church of England guidance on memorials with contested heritage

Church of England press release

The Church of England has published guidance for parishes and cathedrals addressing concerns over memorials with links to slavery and other contested heritage

The new guidance enables churches and cathedrals to consider the history of their buildings and congregations, and to engage with everyone in their community to understand how physical artefacts may impact their mission and worship. It offers a framework to approach such questions locally and, where necessary, to engage with the relevant bodies who oversee changes to cathedral and church buildings.

In June 2020, the Church of England announced a consultation on approaches to contested heritage following a series of cases around the country. The work forms part of ‘Open and Sustainable Churches’, a long-running programme seeking to identify issues affecting the ability of churches and cathedrals to provide worship and welcome, offering support and resources to tackle these.

The guidance published today has been informed by a wide-ranging consultation which has included every Church of England diocese and cathedral, as well as heritage bodies, specialists in church monuments, and those with an interest and specialism in UKME representation in the Church of England.

It notes that while churches and cathedrals are, above all, places dedicated to the worship of God, for a range of reasons, members of communities may not always feel welcome in these buildings. One such reason could be the presence of objects commemorating people responsible for the oppression and marginalisation of others.

The guidance specifically addresses the issue of heritage associated with racism and the slave trade – including plaques, statues, inscriptions and other monuments, but hopes that by doing so it will establish a methodology which can be used for other forms of contested heritage.

The guidance does not prescribe solutions, but presents a range of options and considerations, together with suggested models for local consultation and discussion. It encourages balanced, inclusive decision-making.

It also states that while ‘no change’ may be the outcome of such a consultation, this is not the same as ‘no action’ and encourages research, consultation and reflection where concerns are raised, to assess how much objects may impact on missional, pastoral and liturgical activities.

On publication of the guidance, The Church of England’s Director of Churches and Cathedrals, Becky Clark, said:

“With this guidance, the Church of England is seeking to provide a framework for parishes and cathedrals to lead discussions about how the heritage in our buildings can best serve our commitment to be a welcoming and inclusive Church today.

“Church buildings and their interiors have been adapted over centuries in response to practical needs, architectural styles, as well as to society itself.

“The issues of contested heritage require us honestly and openly to discuss ways in which our buildings can demonstrate our commitment to social and racial justice as a reflection of our faith in Jesus Christ.”

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Bishop of Lincoln announces his retirement

Press release from Diocese of Lincoln

To the people of the Diocese of Lincoln:

I am writing during the season of Easter, as we look forward to the celebration of Ascension Day and to the gift of the Holy Spirit at Whitsunday, the first Christian Pentecost, to announce my retirement as Bishop of Lincoln on the 31st December 2021 – more than ten years after I took up the post on the 19th September 2011 and as I approach my 69th birthday.

This will be preceded by a period of study leave during October to December in which I will reflect on the last ten years of ministry. I will do this by attending a retreat and undertaking guided study.

Of course, there will be time later for me to give thanks and for others to reflect on all that has happened in the Diocese during these ten years – to mark what has gone well and what has not gone so well; more of that later.

I hope my farewell service will be in Lincoln Cathedral on Sunday 21st November at Evensong at 3.45pm – COVID19 permitting.

I have not made this decision lightly, but after careful thought and prayer and after consultation with people of wisdom inside and outside the Diocese…

The press release goes on to explain the reasoning behind this timing.

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Reactions to the CofE anti-racism task force report

Updated 29 April and 2 May and 6 May

Although there has been extensive media coverage of the recent report, aided by the recent BBC television documentary, there has been relatively little commentary on the content. Here is a small selection:

Church Times Leader comment: Welcomed to the table at last?

Jonathan Jong On ‘From Lament to Action’: the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce Report

Diocese in Europe Racial Justice: “From Lament To Action”

Telegraph Calvin Robinson The Church of England is institutionally woke

Archbishop Cranmer From Lament To Action: the report of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce

Updates

Nicholas Adams Lament and Action

Al Barrett #LamentToAction: making the invisible, visible

Mike Higton Theological Education in ‘From Lament to Action’

Ian Paul How should the Church respond to race?

Mike Higton (again) How should the church respond to race? – A reply to Ian Paul – kai euthus

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Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce calls for urgent changes

Church of England press release

From Lament to Action: Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce calls for urgent changes to culture of Church of England

The Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce has today published its report From Lament to Action proposing a suite of changes to begin bringing about a change of culture in the life of the Church of England.

It issues a warning to the Archbishops that a failure to act could be a “last straw” for many people of UK Minority Ethnic (UKME) or Global Majority Heritage (GMH) backgrounds with “devastating effects” on the future of the Church.

The report sets out 47 specific actions for different arms of the Church of England to implement across five priority areas: participation, governance, training, education and young people.

Without these changes the Church risks denying and disregarding the gifts of a significant part of the nation, the Taskforce makes clear.

(The press release is continued below the fold)

The full report is available here.

The text of the Archbishops’ statement in response to Anti-Racism Taskforce Report is here.

Information about the Anti-Racism Taskforce itself.

(more…)

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Bishop Emma Ineson appointed to new national role

press release from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and from the Archbishop of York

Bishop Emma Ineson to be Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

Currently Bishop of Penrith, Bishop Emma will take up the position from 1st June 2021.

Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell have announced the Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson as the new Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Currently Bishop of Penrith, Dr Ineson will take up the position from 1st June 2021.

The role reimagines and replaces the existing position of Bishop at Lambeth – the post currently held by Bishop Tim Thornton, who announced his retirement earlier this year – in order to facilitate closer working between Lambeth Palace and Bishopthorpe.

Bishop Emma will work directly for both Archbishops and closely with the whole College of Bishops. As a senior member of the Archbishops’ teams, she will play a key role in work being done on the future of the Church of England, appointments and liaising with the House of Bishops.

She will also have specific oversight of the programme for the 2022 Lambeth Conference, having been chair of the conference’s working group since last year. She will not be Bishop to the Forces or Episcopal Commissary to the Falkland Islands, roles currently performed by the Bishop at Lambeth.

Bishop Emma has been the Bishop of Penrith in the Diocese of Carlisle since 2019. Prior to that she was Principal of Trinity College. She has also been a Bishop’s chaplain, and chaplain to the Lee Abbey community in Devon. In 2016 she was appointed as an Honorary Chaplain to the Queen.

She is author of two books – Busy Living: Blessing not burden (Continuum) and Ambition: What Jesus said about power, success and counting stuff (SPCK). She is married to Mat. They have two adult children and two black dogs.

Bishop Emma said: “I am absolutely delighted to be taking up this new role at such a time of great opportunity and challenge for the Church of England, as we emerge from the Covid pandemic. I am very much looking forward to working with the Archbishops and their teams at Lambeth and Bishopthorpe to enable the work of healing, renewal and hope that will be needed in the Church, and in wider society, in the coming years. We have good news to share in Jesus, and it will be a privilege to play whatever part I can in ensuring that good news is heard and received by all.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, said: “I am truly delighted to welcome Bishop Emma to Lambeth Palace. I know she will bring her considerable wisdom, humour and humility to the role, as well as her wealth of experience as a chaplain, teacher and outstanding preacher. Archbishop Stephen and I are looking forward to working with Bishop Emma on issues relating to the Emerging Church, the role and nature of bishops meetings and the priorities we face.

“As we look forward to the Lambeth Conference, in which Bishop Emma will continue to play a crucial role, her authentic and practical ministry will be invaluable to the global Anglican Communion. I will be praying for her and her husband, Mat, as they prepare to join this community of communities at Lambeth Palace.”

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell said: “I’m delighted that Emma has been appointed as Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Her theological depth and pastoral heart will be a huge blessing in this important ministry, not just to the Archbishops, but to the Church of England as we strive to be a simpler, humbler and bolder church.”

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Scripture Union review of John Smyth case

The Scripture Union has published the Executive Summary of its review into the case of John Smyth. There is also an FAQ to explain it.

Note that this is one of three separate reviews being conducted in parallel. The others are organised by Winchester College and the Church of England. The FAQ document explains why the SU report is separate. It may be helpful to read the FAQ first.

Scripture Union Statement

Executive Summary of  the Scripture Union John Smyth Independent Case Review

John Smyth Independent Case Review FAQs

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Review of Jonathan Fletcher case published

Updated again Wednesday morning

The independent review commissioned by Emmanuel Church Wimbledon from thirtyone:eight has been published.

The full report is available here (146 pages).

Here is the response of Emmanuel Church.

Another response from the external members of the Independent Advisory Group is here.

Updates

The Diocese of Southwark has issued this statement:

“The Diocese of Southwark is committed to learning lessons from independent safeguarding reviews and in the light of this report will continue to work with Emmanuel Church Wimbledon and the National Safeguarding Team. The abuse of power and control by those in positions of trust is unacceptable and we commend those who contributed to this review for their resilience and courage in coming forward to disclose painful experiences. It is of the utmost importance that support is offered to those in need who have been affected by the abusive behaviours detailed in the review. The Diocese has contributed to the review and will study the report findings and recommendations in detail. We will seek to ensure that the learning from the review will be implemented.

For clarification, whilst recognised as a church within the Diocese, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is an independent ‘Proprietary Chapel’, and as such does not have parish status. Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is fully self-supporting and appoints its own clergy under the guidance of an appointed group of patrons. It is a private limited company registered with the Charity Commission. Anglican clergy at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon officiate with licences issued by the Diocesan Bishop.”

The National Safeguarding Team has issued this statement:

A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team, NST, said: The Church is committed to learning lessons from all safeguarding situations and will continue to work together with Southwark Diocese on this case. The coercive and controlling behaviours described in the report are appalling and the priority must be to ensure support for those who have been brave enough to come forward. The NST has contributed to this review and does note the findings and recommendations which it will study in detail. The Team has developed over recent years and has seen a significant restructure including the commitment to move to independent oversight along with the development of the national casework management system. We fully welcome the learning and changes that will result from this report.”

Media coverage:

Also:

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Sheffield Cathedral Visitation: Bishop issues his Determination

The Bishop of Sheffield has published his Determination, following upon the Visitation of his cathedral that he announced on 1 November.

The press release is here: Bishop of Sheffield publishes ‘Determination’ following Sheffield Cathedral Visitation or another copy is here.

The text of the determination itself (pdf) can be found either here, or alternatively over here.

The Sheffield Star reported: Sheffield Cathedral’s ‘bullying and blaming’ culture led to ‘fear of speaking out’.

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Latest developments in Christ Church Oxford saga

Updated 23 March and again 24 March

Two separate news reports have been published today:

Much of this article reports an online AGM meeting last Saturday of the Christ Church Association which represents 9,000 past and present members of the college, and which spent 50 minutes scrutinising Christ Church’s treatment of its head, Dean Martyn Percy, which was strongly defended by Canon Sarah Foot, who referred to the recently published report by Sir Wyn Williams.

It also reports on a legal opinion commissioned by friends of the Dean, Edward Fitzgerald QC, a specialist in human rights law and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers in London, and his colleague Paul Harris. They  conclude that it would be “unlawful and improper to convene a second tribunal”. They go on to say that if the complaints were proven,  “… it seems very doubtful whether those facts could be regarded by any reasonable tribunal as sufficient to merit the severe sanction of dismissal…The sustained, repeated and entirely groundless campaign to drive the dean from his job would seem to fall within the definition of harassment in Sections 2 and 7 of the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997.”

This news report describes the safeguarding risk assessment measures taken by the College and Chapter, that were approved by Richard Woodley,the Oxford Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, who said:

“…because this was an “interim assessment of risk” rather than a formal risk assessment, it did not need to comply with the Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016, which stipulate, among other things, that the person being assessed be consulted and given 14 days to query it, and, when it involved “certain facts which are in dispute . . . must set out the matter and the nature and the extent of the dispute”.

Also, it was an error for the name of the consultant who conducted an investigation into the alleged incident, to have appeared on the risk assessment document.  Kate Wood said:

“I have never undertaken a risk assessment in this matter or been party to the assessment of risk in any regard. I have never even seen the risk assessments conducted by the college and cathedral. My role was to conduct an initial investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment. This is a very different role to conducting a risk assessment. . .

“…I asked the college several times to publicly explain the error and to confirm that I had not conducted a risk assessment. I also asked the college to engage with those people who had been most vocal in criticising me on this false narrative. This public correction does not appear to have happened, though I am told that the error has now been corrected on the document.”

A spokesperson for Christ Church confirmed that Ms Wood’s name had been incorrectly included in an early “risk assessment draft”.

The Church Times also reports on the progress of the CDM action against the Dean: the Bishop of Birmingham, to whom the responsibility has been delegated by the Bishop of Oxford,  has decided to proceed to the tribunal stage, despite the Dean being unable to respond to the complaint due to illness.

Updates  (items published on 21 March)

Archbishop Cranmer If Martyn Percy kills himself, the Church of England will have blood on its hands

Surviving Church Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late

Oxford Diocese has published this (24 March): The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy which links to a letter from the Sub Dean. The same material is on the Christ Church website: Response from Christ Church Cathedral to public speculation.

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